5 Parts of Your Daily Routine That You Should Do Outside Instead of Inside
Increasing the amount of time you spend outdoors can have a positive effect on nearly every part of your health, from your lung function to your mood—but fitting it into an already-busy schedule can feel impossible. Here's a better approach: Shift the bulk of your daily routine outside and rack up those fresh-air minutes without any extra effort. Below, we outline how to do just that.
Moving your workouts outside is one of the simplest ways to boost your vitamin D levels and reap the benefits of fresh air. Swap the treadmill for an outdoor run or walk around your neighborhood, at a local school's track, or on a paved path through the woods, and incorporate stretches and body weight exercises for a complete HIIT workout. Or, set up your yoga mat and stream a session in a small patch of grass in the backyard; lift weights on the patio; and jump rope in the driveway. Try adjusting your workout according to the weather, trying new activities—paddleboarding, trail riding, or tae kwon do in the park—during the summer, and donning the right layers for warmth and sweat-wicking comfort in the winter.
Cook and Eat
In the summer, al fresco meals are a welcome change, whether you're sipping your morning coffee in the sunshine, hosting an all-day barbecue, or roasting s'mores after dark. But they don't have to be the exception: Make an effort to enjoy all your meals outside, either at a table or on a picnic blanket (don't forget the shatterproof glassware and plates, citronella candles, and cloth napkins). If you have a grill, branch out from burgers with recipes for grilled salad, watermelon, mixed-berry desserts, skillet bread, bacon, and pizza. Or get creative with campfire cooking, and add breakfast hash, chicken with lemons, and one-pan pasta to your repertoire of recipes for cooking over an open flame.
Working from home doesn't have to mean staring at your computer in a dim basement all day: Set up your laptop outside to reap the brain-boosting benefits of fresh air and sunshine for as far as your Wi-Fi signal can reach. If your computer setup doesn't allow for mobility, plan to take calls, update your calendar, and return voicemails while sitting on your terrace or walking the dog. After work, make small tweaks to your socialization and self-care routines to maximize your outdoor time: Read books and skim your news apps while sitting on the porch, set up an outdoor projector to host your weekend movie night under the stars, or listen to a baseball game around the fire pit, instead of staying inside to watch it.
According to the Child Mind Institute, "the average American child spends about four to seven minutes playing outside" each day—not enough to reap the full benefits of outdoor time, which can include an increase in creativity, physical activity, confidence, and other life skills. Kids have a natural affinity for getting outside, once you get them away from their tablets, but you don't need to structure every minute. Wander the trails at a local nature center, skip rocks by the water, or join a community garden and get your hands dirty. Add simple toys, like playground balls or buckets, to your lineup of sidewalk chalk and bubbles and let your kids make up their own games. When they cry boredom, bring out the inside toys: Use magnetic tiles to create a floating structure off your metal outdoor table, let the dolls have a tea party in the grass, or use sidewalk chalk to draw a racetrack for the Matchbox cars. Hosting an all-ages party? Break out the board games for a family-friendly, go-anywhere activity.
If late-night social media scrolling and early-morning alarms have thrown off your sleep schedule, spending as little as two nights sleeping outside can help shift your circadian rhythm back to its natural state, according to a 2017 study from Current Biology; the natural light-dark cycle stimulates melatonin production closer to bedtime and allows for more restful sleep. Prefer your own bed at night? Grab a power nap on your front-porch loveseat or poolside lounge chair. It won't have the same effect on your circadian rhythms, but the fresh air alone will still provide health benefits that go beyond the extra rest.